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Proposed District 300 budget includes money for parking lots, new teachers

Almost half School District 300 schools' parking lots would be repaved under budget proposal presented by district this week. |

Almost half of School District 300 schools' parking lots would be repaved under a budget proposal presented by the district this week. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: March 28, 2014 8:45AM

ALGONQUIN — Community Unit School District 300 leaders hope to pay for a new administration building while also still repaving almost half of the schools’ parking lots; replacing some schools’ heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems; and hiring eight new teachers.

But it remains unclear whether about $5 million of that construction will have to be borrowed, perhaps eventually to be repaid by higher taxes, or whether a state grant program will cover the cost.

A tentative budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year was presented to the board of education this week by Chief Financial Officer Susan Harkin and Assistant Superintendents Chuck Bumbales and Shelley Nacke.

Also that night, the board unanimously approved a series of resolutions needed to start the process of building a new administration building adjoining the campus of Jacobs High School in Algonquin and converting the present administration wing of Carpentersville Middle School into a new home for about 78 special-education and problem-behavior students who now attend Oak Ridge School on Lake Marian Road in Carpentersville.

The plan includes moving the administrative offices temporarily into Hampshire High School from April of this year — when conversion of the present office wing to classroom use will begin — until December of next year, when the new building near Jacobs is expected to be ready.

Harkin said the cost of converting the present offices to school use for the Oak Ridge students should be covered by $750,000 that the district received from selling the Oak Ridge grounds to the Children’s Home and Aid Society, or CHAS. That sale was agreed to last summer and finalized just this month. CHAS plans to set up a preschool on the Oak Ridge site.

Harkin said the new administration building is expected to cost $5 million to $5.5 million.

The proposed construction fund budget also includes another $5.5 million for repaving a dozen schools’ parking lots and replacing some schools’ HVAC systems.

“It’s important to note that (building a new administration building) is not instead of these improvements to the existing schools but in addition to those,” Superintendent Michael Bregy said.

Harkin said the construction fund has about $5 million in it now and will get about $1 million of revenue during the year. That leaves a shortfall of about $5 million which, she said, district officials hope will come from a state block grant program for school construction projects.

If the block grant doesn’t become reality, or if the state money is delayed, the district can finance the program by borrowing temporarily, she said.

“The state has $150 million available for these construction block grants ... so the chance of us getting that state money is pretty good,” board member Kathleen Burley said.

As proposed by Harkin and the other administrators, the 2014-15 Operating Fund would include money to:

Add four more high school teachers, which Harkin said would allow the present average class size to be maintained.

Add four special-education teachers.

Add the equivalent of one-fifth of a teacher for the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program.

Add a choir at Lakewood School.

Buy new math textbooks for kindergarten through eighth grade that are more in tune with the new Common Core math education program required by federal and state law.

Do some safety improvements.

Three other new spending requests by staff members had to be left out of the budget, Harkin said: adding up to 26 para-educators for the Response to Intervention (RTI) program; a transition center for special ed students; and a learning management system.

Harkin said the proposed operating fund budget is balanced and assumes that the Consumer Price Index, which limits the district’s property tax levy, will go up 1.6 percent. That would increase property tax revenue by $1 million. The budget also assumes that $3 million more will come in during that year from the Sears complex’s EDA (Economic Development Area) in Hoffman Estates, whose tax breaks were the subject of a long legislative battle in recent years.

The budget also assumes that state aid and other state, local and federal revenue will remain unchanged; insurance costs will go up 5 percent; transportation costs will go up 2 percent; and tuition paid by the district to other schools on behalf of special students goes up 5 percent.

Harkin said this year’s revenues came 74 percent from property taxes, 15 percent from state aid and grants, 6 percent from federal aid and grants, 4 percent from other local sources and 1 percent from the Sears EDA.

Board members will consider the budget further at their next meeting, on March 10.

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